For weeks, the Vashon Pool has been empty — a plastered hole in the ground surrounded by and filled with bustling, neon-clothed construction workers.
Since the conclusion of the summer swim season Labor Day weekend, the pool and its related infrastructure has been receiving long overdue work outlined in a laundry list of a dozen tasks that will ultimately allow it to be used year-round. In November, an inflatable bubble paid for by the island’s Seals Swim Team is going to cover the pool and allow for swimming throughout the year.
“This work is allowing for much greater efficiency, an infrastructure platform for year-round use and greatly expanded recreational opportunities,” the pool’s Aquatics Director Scott Bonney, said Monday while supervising the latest construction developments. “But we can’t leave the pool dry and empty for too long; meanwhile, the Seals have had nowhere to practice, so they’re going off-island, and the community has been itching to get in here, so all of that compresses the timeline.”
Bonney is hoping the work can be finished by the end of the month. Work being done includes:
- Reconfiguring the main drain. It was found to be out of compliance with a 2007 law requiring anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices on pool and spa drains.
- Remodeling the locker rooms to make them ADA accessible.
- Replacing rusted pipes and valves
- Increasing the efficiency of the boiler.
- Repairing the pool’s underwater lights and installing a generator to power lights under the inflatable dome.
- Fixing the heaters in the locker rooms and insulating so they can be used efficiently during the fall and winter months.
- Installing low-flow toilets, sinks and showers as requested by the Vashon school district, which owns the pool, but leases it to the park district.
The four construction crews hit a road block early on, though, when workers attempting to reconfigure the main drain discovered the drainpipe was 90 percent clogged. Edmonds’ Action Jackson Drain Cleaning pulled three huge chunks of calcium out of the drain, along with hundreds of other smaller pieces. Bonney speculates it was left over from the days when King County owned the pool and used chlorine tablets that contained high levels of calcium. Bonney uses liquid chlorine to maintain the pool’s cleanliness.
The work is being funded through a combination of Vashon Park District funds, Seals Swim Team funds and grants. Earlier this year, the district received a $75,000 King County Youth Sports Facilities grant — it has a 50 percent ($37,500) match component, that is being funded by both VPD and the Seals Swim Team — that will go toward ADA locker room upgrades and boiler repairs. The Seals swim team has nearly met its $95,000 fundraising goal and is purchasing the more than $80,000 bubble, as well as covering the cost of heating the locker rooms and contributing to the cost of new electrical infrastructure that will keep the bubble inflated.
The Vashon Park District, which operates the pool, has already planned programming for the fall, winter and spring, including swim lessons, lap swim, open swim and facility rentals for birthday parties and other events. The facility will serve as a year-round training area for the Seals Swim Team, which has had difficulty finding a regulation-size practice space outside of the summer months.
The covering of the pool comes after nearly a year of efforts by the swim team. The team came to the Vashon Park District board last November with a proposal to cover the pool that involved an agreement where the Seals would fundraise to buy the $85,000 bubble. Operating costs for keeping the pool heated and the extra year-round staffing, estimated at that time to cost $25,000 per year, would fall on the park district. VPD Board Chair Karen Gardner said she didn’t think funding from the district would be possible.
Then, in February, the Seals presented an updated version of the proposal. It outlined an agreement between VPD and the Seals in which the Seals provide funding to purchase the dome and pay for costs associated with the 10 hours of weekly practice time. VPD would be responsible for maintenance and operations, including lifeguards, beyond those 10 hours per week — estimated at around $116,000 annually, beginning with its 2018 budget.
After months of delay, the park district board voted in May 3-2 in favor of covering the pool beginning in the fall of 2017. The agreement calls on the Seals to purchase the bubble from AmeriDome and cover all initial construction costs, as well as the costs of operating the bubble during the team’s practice time. The Vashon Park District will be responsible for ongoing operation and maintenance costs, including hiring and paying lifeguards, at an estimated $55,000 per year beginning in 2018. Costs this year are estimated at $13,720. The proposal assumes $61,240 in revenue from the Seals and from community lap swimmers, open swim and lessons that would occur at the pool for 22 hours each week during times the Seals are not practicing. Prices for open swim and lessons will remain the same as for the summer season.
Bonney said the partnership between the Seals and the park district is a crucial part of the success of the project.
“None of this would be happening without the great working relationship we have with the Seals,” he said. “The amount of hours they’ve put in is amazing.”
The team is $5,000 away from its $95,000 fundraising goal. For more information and to donate, visit coverourpool.org.